The Boston Celtics came out completely flat Sunday afternoon at the TD Garden, never leading as the New York Knicks cruised from the tip to a 105-75 victory over the East-leading Celtics. Jaylen Brown managed to score a game-high 25 points for Boston, but nobody else did much of anything and their winning streak ended at five games.
Simply put, this was one of the worst games the C’s have played in quite a while. The Knicks were faster to every loose ball, got all the bounces to go their way, and most of all they made shots. The Celtics, meanwhile, shot 29% on field goals and a ridiculously low 15% on 3-pointers, going only 7-46 from long range. It was actually a historically bad shooting performance.
Coming off an entire week break, this type of performance could have been expected in the C’s first game back against the Magic on Friday, but not in the second game. New York jumped on them early, building an 11-point lead at the end of the first quarter that the Celtics were never able to fight back against.
The Celtics never made any sort of run in this game, and the 13-point halftime deficit they found themselves in was the closest they were for the rest of the game. The Knicks lead went as high as 37 in the fourth quarter, before they ended up winning by 30. With how poor the Celtics shooting was, it’s actually somewhat impressive that they managed to score 75 points.
The string of strong performances that the Celtics bench had put together came completely crashing down in this one-sided affair. The seven Celtics players that came off the bench in this game combined for 24 points on 7-26 shooting. That kind of effort is not going to cut it, especially when the starters struggle mightily as they did in this game. Going forward, they’ll need the bench to get back to making the contributions they had been during the winning streak if this team wants to find itself among the league’s elite at the end of the season.
The only ray of hope from this game is that Kemba Walker finally made his season debut, playing 20 minutes and scoring 9 points. Although he was inefficient with his shot, it was his first game action in months so he needed to shake off some rust. It looked like his signature quickness was totally back, which was lacking at times in the bubble as he dealt with his knee issues. However, even this silver lining took a hit when Kemba was forced to leave the game after taking a hit from Nerlens Noel that left Walker clutching his side.
Although he went to the locker room, he later returned to the bench so hopefully he just got the wind knocked out of him and will be good to go for their next game. Walker has had some bad injury luck since signing with the C’s after hardly ever getting injured with the Hornets, so it would really stink if he was forced to miss any more time after just coming back.
The best course of action for the Celtics is just to flush this game out of their memory. Sure, maybe there were some positives like Walker’s return or Brown continuing to play well, but by and large this game needs to be forgotten. Over the course of a season, every team is going to have a few duds, and this certainly was one from Boston. You just have to learn from it and move on.
Next up is a pair of games against the Philadelphia 76ers in Philly, the first on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Although Jayson Tatum won’t be back for the first game of that mini-series, there is a chance he plays in the second game, which would be our first chance to see the Celtics at full health this season. After this blowout, that can’t come soon enough.
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